For SUNY New Paltz’s youngest team this fall, the main goal is a SUNYAC playoff berth.
The Men’s Soccer team is preparing for its 2012 season after graduating 13 seniors in 2011. The Hawks are only returning three starters from a team that went 8-10-1 overall and 4-4-1 in conference play last season.
“We lost some very good players, but it was hard to implement new mentalities on the new players,” fourth-year Captain Nick DiPaola said. “This is the first time coach has his whole recruiting class up to speed.”
Head Coach Gene Ventriglia returns for his second season with the Hawks after joining the squad in December 2010. Ventriglia, a three-time All-American, 1968 Olympian and former West Point Women’s Soccer head coach, has been selective when choosing players to complement the team he wants.
Over the course of the recruiting season, Ventriglia has brought in nine first-years, four transfers and one student from Madrid to replace the vacated roster spots.
“I feel good,” Ventriglia said. “When you have 13 players that are not really your players, it’s hard to have an impact on them. I have a chance to mold my own team.”
Ventriglia said he believes cohesion and strong conference play will be the focal points during the 2012 campaign.
“We have a passing team this year, last year we had the tendency to play the long ball.” Ventriglia said. “I believe in a possession-based style, attack as a team and have many options.”
Ventriglia said the team has options to choose from. The starting roster is not yet set in stone, but the coach said this is not a problem for a team with such youth and depth. Ventriglia’s possession-based style fits an unusually large, fast and physical team, he said.
“A winning record is not that important,” Ventriglia said. “We are going to struggle early on. We will use non-conference games as learning opportunities. Our goal is to win conference games.”
A winning record in conference games awards home field advantage during the SUNYAC tournament. SUNYAC conference play kicks off at home against SUNY Cortland Friday, Sept. 21 at 4 p.m. at Alumni Field.
“Undoubtably Oneonta is our biggest competition, they lost in the Div. III Final Four last year,” Ventriglia said. “They have a tremendous group coming back.”
SUNY Oneoenta finished the 2012-2013 season ranked No. 3 in NCAA Div. III and are preseason ranked No. 8 this year. The Hawks will face off against the Red Dragons at home on Oct. 13. By that time of the season, the team should be settled in and possibly have a chance to upset the Red Dragons. A victory, Ventriglia said, that could give this young team the confidence needed to propel them into a playoff run.
The Hawks lost their first game on Aug. 31 against Vassar, a strong team that went 11-6-3 last season. Third-year Mike Jacobsen scored the lone goal for the Hawks in their 3-1 loss. They then went on to a 0-0 double overtime final on Sept. 4.
Despite not yet having a win under their belt, the team knows their goals will become reality come end of the regular season.
“Our biggest competition is ourselves,” fourth-year midfielder Shanshe Khosroshvili said. “We are our biggest challenge. We are a young team that needs to have confidence.”